Thursday, January 31, 2013

Must Be Spring

Been hearing the cardinal every morning in the wash serenading an unseen female.

The mourning doves are courting -- and mating -- atop the power standard next to my RV. Have they no shame. Better check that they aren't building a nest in the hitch of the fifth wheel. Has happened before.

When walking the desert, been hearing the songs of the cactus wren, the gila woodpecker and the curve-billed thrasher. Appears all are in the mood for starting a family.

This hummingbird didn't waste any time starting a family.

She made the nest in the eucalyptus on the lot line. She laid two eggs. Appears she is quite comfortable with all the photo taking. (Not just mine.) The nest is about two feet from the window of the RV next door. Through the window, the two eggs are visible when the hummingbird isn't on the nest.

Temperatures don't seem to affect the birds laying and hatching eggs. The cool (cold) weather has kept me inside more than I like. It has been a struggle to wear shorts every day. Most days it is noon before reaching 50 degrees -- comfortable shorts temperature.

No complaints. All is right with the world. And it's spring time for birds.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cemetery Statue

In my nomadic travels, I check out local cemeteries. When in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I stopped at the Hill City cemetery. Finding the contemplative seated figure marking a grave was most unusual.

The statue marked the grave of a man who died in his 30s. There was no indication for a reason for the statue.

No doubt there is a story behind the statue. Could it have been a request of the deceased. Was it a commentary by the deceased's survivors. Was the guy a sculptor. Is there a philosophical message. Perhaps the statue awaits the resurrection. Or is it Rodin's The Thinker and nothing more.

Any other thoughts from creative readers why a statue keeps watch at the grave site.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

More GBs For Less $$

The two year contract on the Verizon air card was coming up in a couple of months so I started looking into what would replace that air card. Perhaps nothing. The air card was already the latest in technology with 3G and 4G support.

That air card was also downward compatible for 1X speeds. Did happen a couple of times crossing some remote parts of the west. There are counties with less than two people per square mile. Verizon cannot justify installing the latest technologies in those mostly unpopulated places.

Searching around and checking with other traveling friends and acquaintances, I found I had missed a great deal. Millenicom provides a 3G/4G hotspot (air card) with usage of 20GB per month at $69.99.

Compare that to the $80 a month at Verizon for 10GB.

Bottom line. It was a no brainer. I didn't bother to wait out the end of my contract. For $80 I was out of the contract at Verizon.

Since Millenicom uses the Verizon network, the speeds and accessibility has not changed. Visibly there is nothing different on my internet accessing gadgets.

Always curious about business models. How come Millenicom can resell Verizon bandwidth cheaper. Or how come Verizon doesn't have an option to compete. More curious is the hot spot card. The brand on the device says Verizon. When the unit powers up, it says Verizon. Just don't call Verizon. Call Millenicom for support.

It was a good day. More GB for less $$.

Regarding all those gigabytes. When I had the 5GB plan I was always going over. So I went with the 10GB plan. It's rare that I had gotten close to that 10GB number. However, many times I just delayed some downloads until I had access to "free" high speed internet access.

Downloading podcasts, listening to Pandora, watching TED talks, and more does manage to consume the gigabytes. Include a couple of Apple software updates at a gigabyte each. Doesn't take long to get over 5GB. I also have life time maps for the Garmin Road navigator. Those updates are closer to two gigabytes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Saguaro Nurseries

Of the flora found in the Sonora desert, the saguaro is the most visible with spears and the iconic saguaro with two arms on opposite sides.

In hikes around the desert behind the RV park, there is the opportunity to see the nurseries for these Sonora desert giants. The saguaro seed is about the size of a poppy seed. For this seed to develop to maturity, requires a protected environment. Since the sprouting seed and the very young plant needs water, the seeds that fall in the shade of a desert tree or bush has a better chance of survival.

Other than the four small saguaros visible in this photo, there are some that are the size of a finger tip.

Noting the smaller nurseries, in one of my hikes I found a nursery with eleven saguaros. They are not all visible in this photo, but after several counts the total came to eleven.

On another hike, I found an even larger nursery. Once again, it is difficult to see all of them from the location where the photo is taken. A younger group of saguaros in this very dense palo verde, some of the less visible specimens were less than a foot tall. This was a record in my searching. There were 17 in this nursery.

On another hike (a cloudy day), found this nurse tree surrounded by saguaros. One towering over the nurse.

There are times that the nurse tree will have died. Speculation is that the saguaros take the water and nutrients which will cause the nurse tree to die.

"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." -- Aldo Leopold

For a brief overview of the saguaro, see Saguaro Cactus brochure from the National Park Service at Saguaro National Park.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Climbing Trees

How come it's mostly young boys -- and some girls -- who climb trees.

Might be good exercise for this aging body. Finding a climbable tree in Tucson might be a challenge.

Photo taken years ago in southwestern Colorado.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's In A Surname

Traveling rural roads in northeastern Wisconsin, came across this road sign. The road is named for a local farmer.

When the king ordered his subjects several centuries ago to select a surname, this would certainly be an unusual selection for a surname. Or maybe not. Perhaps he raised donkeys.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Decorative Glass

Shattered glass. Stained glass. Colorful desert.

Not really sure what applies. Glass was shattered after parties or as bottles were used as target practice. The results are a colorful stained glass desert.

With the right room decor, this photo of random shards of glass might be the perfect accent to a bare wall. :-))

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome To The USA

When in Yuma several years ago when I spotted a vintage VW bug with the number 53 blazoned on its sides. It was Herbie's Round The World Tour. They were traveling around the world with a vintage East German made trailer for sleeping and carrying the few items they needed for travel. Noting the European license plates on the VW and the number 53 on the VW, I had to get the story. (January 2011 blog post about Zainab and Domi.)

As I stood there in the Walmart parking lot talking to Zainab, Domi was working on the VW repairing a clutch issue. I was asking about their journeys around the world and their families in Austria. As I stood there fascinated with the journeys of Zainab and Domi, a man walks up and standing next to me he listens to some of the conversation. 

In a lull in my questions, the man asks, "Do you carry a gun?" Zainab wondered why she would want that. 

The man proceeded to say that he lives full time in an RV and wouldn't travel without a gun. I interjected that I have been living in a RV for many years and don't have a gun. He said I should. 

Later I couldn't help but think that this guy was a prisoner to the lower 48 United States. He can't travel to Canada or Mexico -- with his gun. 

This is the country I live in.

Welcome to the United States. Do you have a gun.

Considering the parts of the world that Zainab and Domi have already traveled, their current journey along the west side of Africa is a lot more challenging. With mud roads and numerous check points, guns will not be of much help. 

After reading several adventure travels of others traveling in Africa away from the tour routes, my admiration for Zainab and Domi continues. I'm not brave enough to face what they are doing. In the unlikely situation where I did start out on such a journey, at some point I would have abandoned the car and trailer and found a plane to get me -- out of there. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

When I Had Hair

At the age of this young man, I may have had long hair and side burns in the Elvis Presley style.

Times and styles do change. Mohawks are the in thing today. Could he have made the spiked creation or did his friend help him with that. Must take a lot of gel -- or whatever is used.

On the far right of the photo notice the lady with her hand over her mouth obviously gasping as she just saw the spiked hair do.

With thinning hair, I've avoided the comb over. I've given up on the pony tail. Today, my eighth inch self administered haircut requires a cap for a warm head.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Time For New Web

Early morning and this spider's web is dew covered. This web will be of little use for catching insects. Too visible. Soon the spider will be creating a new orb web.

Did a check at my favorite reference source -- the internet. It takes a spider on average about an hour to make an orb web. Looking at the construction, it seems quite complicated to create the outside anchors. Then at some point the radii strands are created. Finally, the spider goes round and round creating the orb. The only part of a spider web construction that I have witnessed was the creation of the orb pattern. 

As I edit through the thousands of photos stored on the hard drive, I've found some to share with my readers. These photos will be posted when there is nothing else to write about. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Balmy Day In Tucson

Compared to the zero degree temperatures on Front Range Colorado this morning, 26 degrees is balmy.  This was my weather station when I finally got out of bed this morning. Yes. It was 8:30. Over night low was 23 and that high of 30 was recorded at midnight.

As I lay in bed this morning contemplating the cold, memories of childhood winters in the farm home were recalled. The house was built in 1912 with all the modern conveniences of the time -- indoor plumbing and wired for electricity. A gasoline engine charged the batteries for the electricity.  (Electricity arrived at the farm in 1929). In 1912, houses were built as shells to slow down the wind and keep some of the heat inside. There was no insulation in the walls or ceilings of that house.

A coal and wood furnace provided the hot water heat for the radiators throughout the house. That furnace needed tending -- adding coal or wood to keep the fire going to keep the house warm. It would not be unusual for the furnace fire to die down over night. First thing in the morning Mom or Dad would get that fire going once again. About the age of ten, during day times I stoked the fire with wood or coal.

Yes. Those were the good old days. Today we just turn up the thermostat and the fire starts automatically as an ignitor starts the furnace fueled by natural gas. It's a wonderful world.

May be cold today, but nature is into averages. To create average temperatures, nature plans for "real" balmy temperatures to return to Tucson.

Physical exercise is another way to get warm. This body needs exercise and likes warmth, so yesterday I took a two to three mile wander on the trails in the desert behind the RV park.

Later today more exercise induced heat is planned in Tucson's balmy mid 40 degree temperatures.

Yes. This is long pants weather. The daily attire is long pants and a heavy jacket over the Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Digital Photo Nightmare

Digital photography is great. Take enough digital photos, you're bound to get a good photo. Store the photos on the hard disk. Each photo doesn't take up any physical space -- only changed bits on the disk.

Actually, it's not a good idea. A better method would be to follow my approach when I took real photos and slides. Keep the good photos. Toss the duplicates.

After almost eleven years on the road there are thousands of photos on that hard disk. Actually there are thousands for each year.

The filing system for the photos is a series for folders. High level folder is the year. Within that folder are the folders for the months. Within the monthly folders, there are folders for a location or event. Within the monthly folder, the photo files are renamed for further identification.

On a recent quest to locate a particular photo, I realized the disaster that I had created by not doing proper maintenance when the photos were originally loaded to disk. There were duplicates and some really bad photos. Some even out of focus.

Wonder why I care about cleaning it up. Those children who would inherit the digitally stored photos would not care about the photos that I deemed worth keeping. Without a person in the photo, the photo would mean nothing to my children.

That was the situation when I went through the photo slides that my father had taken. The photos were a record of where my folks had been and where they traveled. If there were people in those photos, I kept some of the slides. The others were dumped.

It might take a couple of months, but I am on a mission to perform major editing on the avalanche of photos on the computer's hard drive.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gravity Testing

These guys were testing gravity at the Prescott Skate Park. Note the shadow in relation to the rider.

There were four or five kids on bicycles or skate boards. None of them ever crashed as I was watching. Since none were wearing any protection from a hard landing, it appears they didn't expect to crash. With a fast shutter speed, I was able to catch several at their mid air zenith.

Back on the farm as a kid, tests of gravity were a more modest venture. Climb up into the hay in the barn and then slide down the face of the stack. Some could handle it better than me. After a couple of exciting slides, I would have an asthma attack. On the verge of suffocation, I learned fast not to do that again.

As kids we made excitement with what was available on the farm. Climbing trees was one way to defy gravity. The barn hill provided a sloped terrain for winter sledding. Riding a vintage bicycle, I managed to stay upright on the rural gravel roads and avoided drawing any blood.

When I was 14, Dad relented and gave into the begging to get a horse. Rode a lot and checked speed and stopping capabilities of the horse. My horse riding experience is related in Shattered Myth. Gravity got me that time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

It Is A Big World

As a small child growing up, we realize our stature in relation to others. Can't reach items that mother put out of reach. Stairs can be a challenge. Climbing onto chairs rather than sitting. At school there were tiny desks.

When in that northern Wisconsin farming community grade school, it was geography that introduced me to the size of the world. Loved geography. All the different kinds of maps. Lots of different people in the world in a range of skin tones. Some wearing little. Others are bundled in furs. That geography book had exotic artist renderings of deserts, jungles, igloos in the Arctic and oceans ending at the horizon. Wonder if schools still teach geography.

I credit that grade school geography for my curiosity about the world in which I live. Geography also influences my reading. My mostly non-fiction reading includes books about travel and adventure travel. Those books share what I will never experience personally.

There is too much to see and experience personally. It would take several lifetimes to experience just the United States. How many more would it take to explore and see the world. It is a big world.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Please No Sugar

Most every day, my lunch consists of a huge salad. Since most store bought salad dressings have sugar as an ingredient, my dressing is homemade with olive oil, a vinegar and spices. Sometimes it is Asian or Italian. Most times it is an original mixture that could never be repeated.

To add some variety to the salad dressings, I opted to make a ranch dressing. I already had the ingredients for the dressing except for the sour cream that the recipe called for.

After checking the process to make sour cream at home (my mother did that), I put sour cream on the grocery list. Whole lot easier.

When shopping, the ingredients are read when not familiar with the product and brand. (Would be a good thing to bring reading glasses.) Picked up the house brand of sour cream. The list of ingredients went on for a couple of lines. Cream was not the first ingredient. Milk was followed by several items which I identified as thickeners. There was the item that ended in "ose". Sugar in sour cream. Why?

Didn't even bother to check the "lite" sour cream. I know from past experience that fat is replaced with sugar for those "lite" products.

I like fat. Picked up another brand and checked the ingredients. This one was "Grade A Cultured Cream". One ingredient. Perfect.

The ranch dressing is getting better each time I make it. Or perhaps I am just getting used to my "throw together" ranch dressing -- without sugar.

For decades, several doctors and researchers have been declaring the hazards of too much sugar in diets. The sugar industry must protect their profits and the result is Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies by Gary Taubes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fall of Roman Empire

Shortly after my recent post suggesting resolutions for members of the legislative bodies, I found this article describing parallels between the US and the Roman Empire.

In that same resolutions post, I was glad we heard there would be no more news stories including the words "fiscal cliff". I wondered what would be the next tag line for the news. Today the new tag was noted a couple of times on the internet (don't have a TV). The new subject is "debt ceiling".

Based upon the historical record of the Senate and House, any laws to address the issue will go to the last couple of minutes. Likely the next day. 

If these guys were your employees, you would fire the lot of them for not getting the job done and working as a team. 

Since we appear headed down the same path as the Roman Empire, I'm going for a hike.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cost Of Living 2012

A question I have been asked as a full time RVer: How much does it cost?

The answer: How much money do you have.

Some full time road acquaintances and friends live on less than $1500 a month. No doubt there are others who would struggle to keep their expenses under $5000 a month.

My expenses for 2012 were a bit worrying. Didn't get to the $5000 a month, but the average was higher than previous years. The major contributor for the increase was maintenance to keep the 12 year old Silver Slug (Ford F-350) on the road. With fuel requirements, the Silver Slug was responsible for 30% of 2012 expenses.

Yesterday I wrote about the changes to the foods in my diet. Without the cheap calories of grains, my grocery bill was up with more fresh produce and more expensive meats. It's justified as investment in my health.

My plan is to spend my entire estate before I die. In order to meet that goal, there was little dry camping in 2012. I opted for full hook up campgrounds. At $17 a day, the 2012 average was two dollars higher than the previous year. However, $17 a day is not that bad. An apartment would be more expensive. And the apartment would have the disadvantage of no wheels.

The remaining categories were close to previous years.

No complaints. 2012 was a great year. Financially. Healthy. Still nomadic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Feeling Great

Around the first days of 2012, I made changes in the food I ate. What was wrong with the foods I ate at that time. Didn't think there was anything wrong with the common wisdom diet. That perfect diet was described by the government, the agriculture industry, and the medical schools. Why would they be wrong.

Impetus for change began with Gary Taubes book Why We Get Fat: And What to do About It. Taubes started me thinking about my diet. His book led me to Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint. After more searching I was reading Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. All three books said to take grains out of the diet. One of those books said, "Try it for 30 days. It isn't the rest of your life."

Why not. Those first thirty days were tough. The daily diet no longer included anything that had flour or grains of any sort. No breads. No tortillas. No rice. No pretzels -- my snack of choice. Just a few weeks into the "no grains", I noted I was no longer hitting the Tums container after meals. Interesting.

The acid indigestion, heart burn and acid reflux had been part of my life for a long time. The doctors solution was drugs to reduce the acid the body produces. Eliminate the symptom. Since the doctor was knowledgeable, I took the prescription -- for about three days. The gut pains caused by the drug were worse than the indigestion. So I lived with Tums.

Two months on the no grains diet it was time to introduce specific grains into my diet. Assuming that my digestive problems were due to a gluten intolerance in wheat, I included some wild rice in a meal. Bad idea. Within an hour I was at the Tums container. Next I tried corn tortillas when at a Mexican restaurant. Same problem. Easy enough. I eliminated all grains of any type from the diet.

A year later there are no grains in the diet. Todays diet is a blueberry/yogurt shake for breakfast. Lunch is a huge salad with lots of different greens and fresh ingredients from the produce section. Somedays, that lunch might include a can of sardines. Dinner is meats (fish, pork, chicken, beef, liver, etc) with a side vegetable. Pistachios are occasional snacks. Desserts are dark chocolate or a pat of butter.

A year later, I sleep better. There is no acid indigestion or heartburn. There is no acid reflux. I take no medications. Not bad for a 72 year old guy. The blood work at the doctor's office this past summer revealed the impact of taking grains out of the diet. The LDL numbers dropped by 50 points from the previous blood work a year earlier.

Life is great.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


First post of the new year. Looking back or looking forward. Could do both. I will save that for another day.

Today I'm happy it is the new year and won't have to hear about the fiscal cliff** anymore. That has apparently been resolved in the early morning hours in Washington.

However, I haven't listened to the latest news at mid morning. Knowing the rancor and intractable nature of the sociopaths/psychopaths in those legislative seats, it would not surprise me that the House decides not to pass what the Senate passed.

Personally, I don't make resolutions. Never have. New Years day is just another day. However, here are a few suggested resolutions for the members of the Federal Legislatures.

  • I will represent and create legislation -- with no loopholes or exceptions -- for all the people in my district or state; not just the members of my party or those who have bribed me for votes or paid for my re-election campaign.
  • I will negotiate in good faith with other legislators realizing other viewpoints are valid and come to a common ground of understanding to achieve good legislation.
  • Instead of talking to the media talking heads to make legislation, I will spend my time negotiating and talking with other elected legislative members.

Something akin to those words in their oaths of office would be much better than the words of the current oath (enacted in 1884):
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Enough of resolutions.

Time for another cup of tea.

**The term "fiscal cliff" may now be out of the media daily headlines. However, no doubt within a week there will be a new phrase created by the media to describe the latest crisis in Washington.